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Arts & Entertainment

In honor of Pi Day (3/14): the circle that gave the city of Corona its name

FredBren/Public Domain

For an upcoming story on Off-Ramp, I found myself in Corona early this afternoon. Arriving a little early I started driving around when I noticed this odd, circular street in the center of town:

That's Grand Boulevard. It's about a mile in diameter and it's officially a part of Corona's historic district, making a tour around town easy and convenient. The neighborhood has more shuttered storefronts and empty lots than you might like to see--While looking for some caffeine, I ran into two shuttered coffee shops. Nevertheless Historic Corona has plenty of easy-on-the-eyes old arcitechture leftover from the citrus boom in the late 19th century.

But did you know Grand Boulevard is also Corona's namesake? Before 1896, the city was known as South Riverside and corona, of course, is Spanish for "crown." Círculo was apparently a little clunky--but Corona is known as The Circle City. Here's a few words on the street from Corona's heritage museum:

Civil Engineer H. Clay Kellogg designed the three mile round Grand Boulevard in 1886.  During that year Kellogg, working closely with real estate developer R. B. Taylor, laid out the plans for the town of South Riverside, later known as Corona.  Taylor wanted a design for the newly formed community to have some character and the concept of the circular boulevard was born.  Little did anyone realize what importance that road would bring to Corona just 27 years later.

In 1912, city officials were again looking for some means to bring their community to the attention of the world.  With the invention of the automobile and the ensuing interest in testing the speed of these vehicles, raceways began to form all around the country.  Several wealthy residents and local businessmen began to make plans to promote their idea for turning the circular Grand Boulevard into a racecourse.

Corona's Grand Boulevard hosted three international racing events in the early 20th century. If you're ever in the area, it's absolutely worth the 15 or so minutes you'll spend driving it.